Dr. Smollet’s lab was in a three-story white stucco building. A barbed wire fence surrounded the place. I saw empty lots on both sides. No stores or houses on the block.
He opened the gate with a key and led us to the white front door. I saw rows of tiny windows rising up to the flat red roof. All the windows were barred.
As soon as we stepped inside, I heard the shrill cries.
Animal cries. Shrieks and howls. Muffled behind a long row of closed doors.
Dr. Smollet noticed my surprise. “Don’t pay any attention,” he said. “We do a lot of animal experiments here. The animals are all well cared for.”
We started down a long white hall. Even the carpet was white. The animal cries became fainter as we turned a corner that led into another white hall.
Nicky and Tara glanced around nervously.
“Did our parents work here?” Tara asked.
Dr. Smollet nodded. He led us into a big square room filled with computer equipment. The walls were solid white. Bright lights beamed down from the low ceiling.
I saw rows of laptops on two long tables. Cables stretched above our heads. Large electronic machines beeped and hummed against one wall. Red and blue lights blinked.
Flat-screen monitors filled another wall. The monitors flashed numbers and equations and formulas.
Dr. Smollet pulled off his raincoat and suit jacket and tossed them on a chair. He tugged down the sleeves of his starched white shirt.
I could still hear the animal shrieks in the distance. Sad, frightened cries. They made me feel frightened too.
Had we made a big mistake?
I swallowed hard. My mouth was suddenly very dry, and my hands felt as cold as ice. I jammed them into my jeans pockets–and felt the deck of trick cards.
Will I get out of here in time to see Ballantine?
The lab was neat and clean. The monitors blinked silently. The big electronic machines clicked and hummed. Dr. Smollet smiled as the three of us gazed around.
“This lab belonged to your parents,” he told Nicky and Tara. “This is where they worked. And I worked here alongside them.”
“Wow,” Nicky said, shaking his head. He walked up to a long table of laptops. “I think I remember being here. It’s a faint memory. But it’s coming back to me.”
“Yes, I remember the computers,” Tara said. “And all those wires and cables on the ceiling.”
She tugged at her dangling plastic earrings.
She always pulled them when she was thinking hard or trying to remember something.
“We were here, Nicky,” she said. “I know we were. Why can’t I remember it better?”
Dr. Smollet leaned on the table with his hands.
“That’s what we’re here to find out,” he said.
He pointed to the machines against the wall.
“Your parents and I worked here, capturing evil ghosts. Your parents were on a mission. They believed that a lot of the evil in the world was caused by these spirits. Your parents found a way to capture them and keep them prisoner here.”
Dr. Smollet sighed. “But one evil ghost–a man named Phears–escaped. I tried to fight him off. But he was too powerful for me. He injured me. He knocked me out. When I came to, all
the evil ghosts had escaped. Phears had freed them all.”
“We–we’ve run into Phears,” Nicky said.
Dr. Smollet’s blue eyes grew wide. “You and your sister were here in the lab on that awful day. Don’t you remember? Don’t you understand?”
Nicky and Tara froze. They stared at him. Speechless.
“We . . . didn’t know,” Tara said finally.
“You were visiting your parents here,” Dr. Smollet said. “When Phears escaped, he did something to your family. To all four of you.”
“You were here,” I said. “Didn’t you see what happened to them?”
Dr. Smollet shook his head. “No. I didn’t see anything. I was out cold.”
He took a deep breath and smoothed back his white hair. “But I have someone here who saw everything,” he said. “I have a witness. I told you his name. Mr. Harvey.”
“Where is he?” Tara asked.
Nicky strode up to Dr. Smollet. “Can we talk to him? Is he here now?”
Dr. Smollet nodded. “Mr. Harvey is the only one who saw everything that happened that day.
He saw Phears escape. He saw Phears free the other ghosts. And he saw what Phears did to you and your parents.”
The scientist loosened his tie. It was cool in the lab, but beads of sweat rolled down his forehead.
“Mr. Harvey may
know the secret. He may know how to bring your family back to life,” he said, gazing intently at my two ghost friends.
“Please–can we see him?” Tara cried. “Can we talk to him now?”
Dr. Smollet cleared his throat. He tugged at his tie again. “Well . . . there’s a small problem. I’ll show you.”
He swung away from the table and walked quickly out of the lab. The door closed behind him.
Nicky and Tara stared at each other. Then they turned to me.
“I . . . I don’t know what to say,” Tara confessed.
“Me too,” Nicky said, his voice cracking. He pumped his fists in the air. “This is too good to be true. Do you think Mr. Harvey really can bring us back to life? And tell us what happened to us?”
The lab door swung open.
Dr. Smollet stepped in, followed by another figure.
“This is Mr. Harvey,” Dr. Smollet said.
Tara’s mouth dropped open.
I stared hard at Mr. Harvey. My brain felt as if it was spinning in my head. “But . . . but . . . ,” I stammered. “Mr. Harvey is a chimp
Dr. Smollet led the chimp by the hand.
Mr. Harvey loped into the room, bouncing as he walked. He kept shaking his head, his lips moving silently. Then he pulled back his lips and gave us a toothy grin.
The chimp was about three feet tall. He wore bright red spandex bike shorts. He had a red baseball cap on his head. But as he crossed the room toward us, he pulled the cap off and tossed it across the lab.
“Hoo hoo hoo.” He made chimp noises and bobbed up and down, his hands on his hairy knees.
Tara stormed up to Dr. Smollet angrily. “Is this some kind of stupid joke?” she demanded.
Nicky pulled Tara back. “Let’s go,” he muttered.
“This is totally insane.”
“No, wait–” the scientist said. He petted the back of the chimp’s head. Mr. Harvey flashed us another grin.
“I told you there was a problem,” Dr. Smollet said.
“How could you do that to them?” I cried.
“How could you get their hopes up like that?” I felt as disappointed as Nicky and Tara.
“Please let me explain,” Dr. Smollet said. He lifted Mr. Harvey onto a tall wooden lab stool at the counter. The chimp reached out and started to play with Dr. Smollet’s white hair.
Dr. Smollet pulled the chimp’s hand away. “Be a good boy, Mr. Harvey. This is a big day for you,” he said.
He turned to us. “Yes, Mr. Harvey is a chimp. But he was here in the lab when Phears escaped. He saw what happened to you and your parents. He was the only witness.”
“But he can’t talk
!” Tara screamed.
“Hoo hoo hoo,” Mr. Harvey said. He reached for Dr. Smollet’s hair again.
Dr. Smollet raised a finger. “But I’ve found a way to make him talk,” he said. “Just listen to me.”
He motioned to the stools at the counter. The three of us took seats.
“It’s simple, really,” Dr. Smollet said. “It sounds more frightening than it is.”
“What are you talking about?” Tara demanded.
“There’s only one way to learn what Mr. Harvey knows,” Dr. Smollet said. “We switch his brain with the brain of a live human.”
Nicky and Tara both turned to me. “You mean Max
?”From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Freaks and Shrieks by R.L. Stine. Copyright © 2005 by R.L. Stine. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.